If there is one product I can’t cook without it’s salt. It is definitely the hero of my kitchen and you won’t find a single recipe on my blog – even desserts – that doesn’t include salt. From salting pasta water to topping brownies, salt is critical in every kitchen no matter what you are cooking but it’s also an ingredient that many may not think about. All salts are not created equal. They look different and they taste different. I reference different kinds of salt in my recipes and I’ve received lots of questions about which salt to use when, so I thought a blog post specifically on what salts I use and why might help answer your questions. (If you’re salt IQ is already high, feel free to move on!)
When I travel internationally (I hope to again soon) I am always bringing new salts home. Food markets, grocery stores, restaurants…I’m always on the hunt. Rather than go through every type of salt out there, I thought I would share the kinds I use regularly.
The best way to understand the difference is to buy some and try them. Feel them between your fingers to get a sense of how big the crystals are and if you crush them, how they change. Then taste them – plain and maybe on a raw vegetable – so you can taste how different they can be.
First, the salt we all know is regular table salt. It’s on every restaurant table and it’s a safe bet that we all have it in our cabinets. It pours quickly which sometimes means before you realize it, you’ve poured too much (I pour it into my hand so I can see exactly how much I am using). It dissolves evenly and I like to use it for salting pasta water. I don’t love the taste (some have iodine and it tastes like chemicals to me) so it’s not what I reach for to cook.
If I had to choose only one salt to use, it would be Kosher salt. It’s in most professional kitchens partly because you can see exactly how much you are using since the crystals are larger than grains of table salt. The taste is clean and it’s what is used to remove impurities from meat and poultry as part of the “koshering” process, thus the name. I buy Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt two boxes at a time since I never want to be without it. I use it so often, every day, that it sits in a “salt” container on my counter next to the stove for easy access.
My next favorite is flake salt. It’s a large crystal salt, harvested from evaporated sea water. You can find this salt with varying sizes of flakes or crystals and I frequently use as a finishing salt or in dishes where you want a crunch and extra flavor kick of salt. You can, but I wouldn’t use flake salt in a sauce or added to pasta water. It holds its shape and flavor which is why is it’s the perfect choice if you like brownies or cookies with a little salty crunch on top. My choice is Maldon Salt, harvested from the shores of England. I love this salt so much I’ve sent it as a gift on more than one occasion. I use it on cooked vegetables, steaks, in salads and dozens of other ways to finish a dish. It was a game changer for me when I discovered it.
Fleur de Sel is also a sea salt but a more delicate, smaller flake and harvested from France. I don’t use this as often as Maldon Salt since I like the larger flake but I always have it on hand. It can be a little expensive by comparison to other salts. If I’m serving something like raw vegetables or a composed salad, fleur de sel is ideal. It’s also my go-to on caramels or in caramel sauce.
These are my favorites and the ones I use on a regular basis but there are at least a dozen other salts in my cabinet and countless others you can try. Keep in mind that salts are different sizes and dissolve (or don’t) differently, and measure differently so check the conversion when cooking. Which one is the best? Whichever salt works for how you cook and how you eat is the best for you but try some salts you may not have known about. You might have a new favorite!